Mr. Bangura added however that among the number, eight Sierra Leoneans rejected the repatriation offer. He lamented that the Sierra Leoneans had been facing several challenges while trying to force their way to Europe. He lamented that some even died in the process while others died as a result of beating, and some ran out of money which resulted in ugly situations for many of them.
According to him, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) set up the holding centres and tried to identify their nationality. He noted that the IOM approached the government of Sierra Leone for a possible repatriation, adding that with the approval of the Chief Immigration Officer, Lieutenant (Rtd.) Andrew Jaiah Kaikai, arrangements were quickly made and two officials from the Immigration Department departed Sierra Leone to see for themselves the situation in Mali.
He added that the IOM screened and placed the undocumented and irregular immigrants by their countries, adding that they had no travelling documents from Sierra Leone.
He added: “Some of them told us that they sold everything they had in Sierra Leone including parcels of land, houses, etc., to embark on that dangerous journey. We counselled them to see the need to return home and reintegrate into the society. We issued emergency travelling documents to them free of cost,” he said.
He disclosed that there were 156 male and 92 females, noting that among the 156 male, there were 33 children below the age of 16, and among the 92 females, there were 31 children below the age of 16.
“There were even five babies between the ages of 6-4 months among the 248 Sierra Leoneans. There were single parents who lost their husbands and wives while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. There was an Imam who had two wives and five children with him at the holding centre,” he disclosed.
On Sunday, 23rd June, 2019, the first batch of 115 repatriated Sierra Leoneans, arrived in Freetown. He said the remaining Sierra Leoneans are expected to be repatriated this week.